A poll last week reported on the devastating drop in the extent to which the peoples of Europe now trust the EU. Organised by the EU’s own polling body, Eurobarometer, this showed that, across the six largest member states, it is no longer trusted by a majority of voters, dramatically reversing their view of only five years ago. In Italy, distrust has risen from 28 per cent in 2007 to 53 per cent today; in Germany from 36 per cent to 59 per cent; and in Britain from below 50 per cent to 69 per cent. The biggest reversal of all is in Spain, where the proportion of those distrusting the EU has soared from 23 per cent to 72 per cent. This is perhaps unsurprising in a country where, with the meltdown of its economy under the euro, unemployment has now hit a staggering 27 per cent, two points higher than in the USA at the peak of the Great Depression in the Thirties.
What makes this evaporation of trust so telling is that the EU is now the government that in many respects rules over our lives, passing most of our laws. The European Parliament website lists 1,301 “legislative acts” from its current session – just as we learn that our own MPs are this year to have two weeks of extra holiday from Westminster, because, we are told, “there aren’t enough laws for them to pass”.
So embarrassing were these poll findings that Eurobarometer has not published them, leaving them to be reported by six Europhile newspapers across Europe that signed up to have the poll carried out. Their own suggestions as to how this crisis of confidence might be repaired range from the idea that the EU should field its own football team, to a proposal that it should devise a “Eur-app” for citizens to download on to their iPhones. If the situation were not so serious, it might be suggested that the next version of the EU’s constitution should include a declaration that every citizen has “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of app-iness”. That would teach us all to remember just how much the EU is doing to improve our lives.